One of the best things about Fringe Festivals is the unexpected. I will admit, when asked to review Go to Hell – The Atheist Musical, I had reservations. The premise didn’t really grab me. BUT, with the old adage ‘never judge a book…….blah, blah, blah’…I had a laugh out loud evening.
The venue, the Hellenic Community Centre opposite the Pleasure Garden (not the Hellenic Club that yours truly as well as some other audience seemed find themselves at!) has that early community theatre days vibe about it; the bar selling drinks from the service hatch, carpeted flooring and rostra, and because the space is so wide – a few pin up boards for ‘wings’. But the uncomplicated setting didn’t undermine my enjoyment of this locally written musical.
GOTO Hell is inspired by 3 pivotal life events in writer / director / actor Cody Fullbrook’s life; a child handing him a religious pamphlet on ‘war, problems and god’; the emotional highs & lows of a long distance relationship and lastly the popularity of religious debate internet videos.
So here goes….. Daniel (Cody Fullbrook) is an internet celebrity voicing opinion to everything and anything. His life is thrown into chaos when his laptop seemingly transports him into the flaming pit of Hell. After making a deal with Satan (Mickey Dichiera) to return home, he reunites with his recently deceased girlfriend (Mikaela Innes) and both begin a journey of revenge and redemption. ………..Oh and drop in Satan’s alter ego Cain (Dan Wilson) and a couple of ‘henchmen’ Ezekiel (Aaron O’Neil) and Samael (Max Rankin) and you have yourself a quirky piece of theatre.
Fullbrook’s writing is fast and funny. A lot of thought has been put into the storyline with a few twists and unsuspecting moments. I did get a bit of a ‘Red Dwarf’ tone to the writing and delivery. There is A LOT to take in, and most of it worked. I did get a little lost though about 3 quarters of the way through, although I would put some of this down to vocal delivery. I did wonder if the character Cain, Satan’s alter ego, was a little superfluous. It was one area the story goes a bit off track. Some story development work and vocal clarity would assist to clear up those moments.
Music and songs by Fullbrook and Ryan Davies are very good. They are cleverly conceived and deceptively difficult. They’re chock full of witty lines and story info, so listen carefully! Davies piano accompaniment is excellent and the singing on the whole is good. I did find song diction an issue with some of the performers which may be a reason why I got a little lost in the story. Fullbrook and Innes have good vocal clarity and their duet a highlight.
All the actors give confident performances. Wilson’s alter ego, Cain, along with Rankin and O’Neil as the awkward henchmen are very funny, although the three suffered the most with vocal diction; Dichiera’s Satan is wickedly camp. Think the evils of Maleficent with the bitch camp of Rupaul’s Drag Race and you have yourself one sassy Satan! Innes as Bethany has a lovely openness in performance and worked very well with Fullbrook’s Daniel. His internet video scenes are very good and a dab hand with comic timing.
There is a lot to like about this show. You won’t be blow away by production values, venue or snazzy costumes and it is a little rough around the edges. But it is a fun piece, it’s locally written and this first Fringe experience will serve this fledgling group well for future creative endeavours.